Freelancers and The Comic Industry

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October 4, 2013 by bck1402

Mark Waid is one of those really prolific writers in the comic industry, having tackled almost every major character in both Marvel and DC Universes. He’s also been an editor at DC Comics, editor in chief at Boom! Entertainment, and now publisher at Thrillbent where he posted An Open Letter To Young Freelancers. Before you click through, let me just get something out here.

The state of the comic industry is not something, I think, many people would probably be looking at although with the rise of comic properties hitting the screens, big and small, there is a bit of a spotlight on them. A bit… little spotlight, maybe… Really, with the movies like Avengers, Iron Man and Amazing Spider-Man being on the big screen, how many viewers really translate to new comic book readers? That’s just Marvel. DC has Arrow following up ten years of Smallville on the small screen. How many of those viewers turned to comics? Thing is, where Marvel is concerned, what you see on screen is almost what you’d get in the comics where character is concerned. Where Arrow and Smallville are concerned, not so much. That’s not even counting The Dark Knight trilogy or Man of Steel, who may look like their printed counterparts, and yet, not quite the same.

Comics, particularly with the big two, are a little like the movies. They have their normal monthly output and then once or twice a year, they have a major event. Although, they can pile up upon each other fairly quickly given the basic monthly output schedule. Both companies have an event or two going on right now at this time.

For Marvel, the first is called Infinity which is a mini-series of six issues coming out over three months, and interacting with two of the main Avengers books, all written by the same person, Jonathan Hickman, with a variety of artists on specific books. On the peripheral, several other books are dealing with the event in their own way, the characters in question being impacted by the events going on.

The other is an X-Men event, Battle Of The Atom, a ten-part saga that crosses over several of the X-Men titles. This one has several writers and artists involved, but so far, there is a sense of cohesion in how the story is being told. In general, the main event is orchestrated by the writer, with approval from the editors on high. I’m not one to say how Marvel comics’ editorial system works, but it feels like the writers have some control over their work here.

Over at DC Comics, there’s Forever Evil, running monthly for seven months, and impacting several other titles along the way, mainly those involved with the Justice League. Batman as a Year Zero event, also set to play out for the rest of the year and well into the next, somehow pulling a few of the other Batman related books along for the ride. Superman has Krypton Returns, looking to run for a few months and also pulling along several of its family of books. Lots of writers and artists involved in each of the events, particularly where the peripheral books are concerned.

But there have been other sorts of hoohah going on at DC comics where the creative teams are concerned. Compared to Marvel comics, DC seems to have very tight editorial control over their properties. Exactly what is going on there is really a mystery unless you want to count the news that actually comes from the writers or creators themselves. You can follow the links and decide for yourself, but if you’re following some of the books like I have, you can’t help but feel disappointed, especially knowing that some of the stories won’t reach the conclusion the writers or creators have planned.

Not that it hasn’t happened on TV series or movies before.

Still, I feel that it’s these occurrences may have prompted Waid’s open letter. It is an interesting look at some of the business practices, and do keep in mind that it is not reflective of any one company. In most cases, these companies own their characters. The talent are work-for-hire. Putting something new into the very crowded industry is no easy task, especially if you’re hoping for longevity.

But as Waid puts it, its the quality of the work that counts in the end. There are works out there that have stood tall against time, regardless of the pain and toil that went into their initial production. It is applicable to us writers, or anyone else in any industry. The most I can say to that is, “I’ll try. I’ll do any work I have to the best of my ability.”

Of course, what exactly the level “the best of my ability” is compared to others is debatable. Not that it should matter. Right?


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October 2013
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